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Thursday, October 13, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Al Qaida cell aligned with Zawahiri captured
in Casablanca

CAIRO — Morocco has reported the dismantling of another Al Qaida cell.


Moroccan police said a five-member insurgency cell was captured in the north. Police said the cell, believed linked to Al Qaida, operated in Casablanca and Sale and was aligned with the new Al Qaida commander, Ayman Zawahiri.

"The cell, which pledged allegiance to Ayman Zawahiri, used Internet to forge close ties with Al Qaida, especially in Syria, Iraq, Turkey, Yemen and Somalia," police said on Oct. 1.

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Zawahiri became commander of Al Qaida after the U.S. assassination of Al Qaida founder Osama bin Laden in May. Officials said Zawahiri, an Egyptian, has sought to expand Al Qaida operations in North Africa and the Levant.

The police statement said the Al Qaida cell, allegedly financed by credit card fraud, planned attacks against Western facilities in Morocco, a reference to embassies and consulates, Middle East Newsline reported. The cell was also said to have targeted foreign companies, expatriates and intended to attack a prison.

Officials said the cell was linked to a bombing of a tourist cafe in Marrakesh in April in which 14 people were killed. They said cell members were in contact with the cafe bomber through the Internet for help in assembling explosives.

This marked the capture of at least the third suspected Al Qaida cell in Morocco in 2011. On Sept. 23, the Interior Ministry announced the capture of a three-member cell linked to Al Qaida and in contact with Islamic insurgents in Libya.

Meanwhile, officials in London said Spain had broken up an alleged Al Qaida cell.

Officials said Spanish authorities arrested five Algerians suspected of being members of Al Qaida Organization in the Islamic Maghreb. They said the five were believed to have been financing an AQIM cell in North Africa.

"The suspects were also suspected of being linked to Islamist extremists in France, Italy and Switzerland," the Spanish Interior Ministry said.

On Sept. 27, the ministry said the arrests of the suspected AQIM members took place in four towns in the northern Basque and Navarra regions. The statement said the five detainees, found with computer files, raised money and sent the funds to AQIM in Algeria.

Officials said AQIM has sought to establish cells in Spain and neighboring states, including France and Italy. They said AQIM was believed to have been using Europe for recruitment, fundraising and operational support.

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